What do you get when you put an extraordinary event planner, a culinary rock star, the resources of the largest grocery store chain in Texas, several amazing chefs and loads of fantastic wines and craft cocktails in the same location?
The answer has proven, once again, to be the highlight of Fiesta Week. The Taste of the Northside event, benefitting The Brighton Center, was held on a soggy Wednesday evening, at The Club at Sonterra, and although my friends changed the dress code without telling me, we climbed aboard the shuttle bus to partake in what has become my favorite Fiesta event.
Having rained for most of the day, I wondered what the plan was going to be for the event if it continued to rain into the evening, and whether or not the crowds would still flock to the Northside. However, pulling up to the event on the bus, we could see that the people weren’t going to let a little water stop their Fiesta revelry. The place was packed. Wendy Welsh and her stellar event planners at Outside the Box had managed to do it again, and even in the rain.
We headed into the VIP section, secured our wristbands and made a beeline for the Absolut table, where they were featuring the “Showdown”. The drink consisted of Absolut Texas themed vodka, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and fresh watermelon juice. It was light and refreshing, and made the perfect start to the evening, whetting our palates for the delicious dishes we would encounter. The first step into the VIP room is a little overwhelming, as you are assaulted by the sheer volume of people and edible options. We managed to fight our way over to the Wildfish table, where a friendly staff was plating hearty tastings of Citrus Infused Scallops with Micro Greens, along with seared tenderloin topped with Jumbo Lump Crab Meat and a White Wine Cream Sauce. I’m not ashamed to admit that we had more than one plate each, but we were then fortified to tackle the crazy line at the HEB table.
Undoubtedly, HEB always has the most impressive spread at Taste of the Northside, taking over several banquet tables and showcasing the very best cheeses and meats from around the world. To call it an appetizer table would be to grossly understate the sheer magnitude of food they provide. The line is always really long for this table, but there are always smiling volunteers pouring superb wines to make the wait a lot more enjoyable. We were able to sample many great wines, such as a Simi Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, and a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Joel Gott.
Cheese plates in hand, we congregated in the middle of the room plotting our next move, and that’s when I spied San Antonio’s newest culinary rock star, Brian West of Smoke. What began as a food truck has become the hottest new barbecue restaurant in town. Smoke is located in the Stone Oak area at Sonterra and Sigma. “I wasn’t sure that the crowd would welcome smoked pig heads, but they seem to like it,” stated West as he shaved more pork cheek meat off of the darkened carcass and on to the plates of eager eaters. The meat was sweet and savory and so incredibly tender. His table most definitely would offend the staunchest of vegetarians, but I admired how he let his food, and it’s source, decorate the space without apology.
With a little more wine and a lot more belly space to fill, we headed out to find more food. Luckily it didn’t take long to come across the table for Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse. One of my favorite steakhouses in town, Kirby’s never disappoints and tonight they were on par with their Grilled Marinated Tenderloin served over a spring salad with Roasted Poblano Vinaigrette. The portions were sizable for a tasting event and the steak was cooked perfectly. We were also very impressed with their dessert offering of Banana Cream Mousse, served with Homemade Marshmallow, Cinnamon Oatmeal Walnut Crisp and Raspberry Sauce. The flavors were perfectly blended and satisfied even the sweetest tooth in our group.
Heading out to brave the throngs outdoors, we were glad that we changed our minds and wore boots and jeans instead of heels and dresses. The grassy area down the hill was very wet and muddy, but we didn’t mind too much as we headed for the margarita tent, and went in search of something a little less fancy than our VIP fare. The margaritas were wonderful and the number of restaurants and food trucks represented was very impressive. At the end of the night, we lined up for our return shuttle quite full and happy. It is an amazing time to live in San Antonio, and our culinary scene is finally getting the national recognition it deserves thanks to the CIA, innovative and passionate chefs, and events which showcase the culinary talents of San Antonio such as this one.
Taste of the Northside has been a Fiesta favorite for several years now, and this year, the event raised over $550,000 for a worthy cause. The Brighton Center provides therapy services, early childhood education, parent training, and advocacy to children with developmental delays and/or disabilities, and their families right here in Bexar County. It is a beloved organization and you could tell by the smiles on the volunteer’s faces, that they were happy to be a part of such a great endeavor. It is an event that I truly look forward to each and every year, and I have no doubt that they will continue to raise the bar and provide San Antonio foodies with a Fiesta event to call their own for many years to come.